A popular word that is often used to describe feminists today is the word ‘angry’- but why is this a bad thing? Are we not allowed to be angry over the systematic oppression of women? Are we not allowed to be angry over the gender inequalities that we witness every day? Anger has always been taught to us as an emotion reserved only for men, and the ‘feminists are just angry men-haters’ narrative only emphasises the fact that society will not only oppress women, but condemn them for having the nerve to be upset about it.
I learned rather early into my young-adulthood that as a woman I’ve been conditioned to be kind. Whilst men are fiery and aggressive, women are meant to balance them with their passive and empathetic nature. This toxic idea is taught to children across the world, causing boys to lock away their emotions to appear tougher and girls to be condemned for being angry, loud and ‘unladylike’. As women, we apologise far too much even when the situation doesn’t require it; apologising when there’s no need to only puts us in a subservient position. We apologise for disagreeing, for speaking out and for speaking honestly, because we’re unknowingly taught it isn’t our place as women to do so. We’re taught that women can’t speak or live as unapologetically as men do because when we do it, we come across as ill-mannered.
I’m a fiery person, I always have been. I argue when I have to, I speak up for myself and others and I never sit back silently and watch someone do or say things that I believe is wrong. I also have a deep, booming voice- if I whisper something, you’ll probably hear me from across the room, maybe even across the street. When I speak, I command attention. As a woman who has a deep voice, a trait that has always been perceived to be masculine, I’ve learnt that people will often try to silence me. People would constantly tell me that I sound manly, and that I’m so tall no boys would ever like me- this then led to me speaking much less out of fear that I’d no longer be seen as feminine. I envied the short girls who had soft, pretty voices. I refused to speak out during class out of fear and insecurity, but when I did speak, I was told to be silent far more than any of my peers because teachers told me my voice “stood out amongst the rest” and it was “more annoying”. If I raised my voice, even in the slightest, I was told I’m threatening and intimidating.
I eventually realised that my ‘masculine’ voice and height was a gift, and I no longer envied the girls who I once longed to sound and look like. I can’t be spoken over like women often are. My presence can’t be ignored like many women constantly are. People have always been more likely to challenge me by raising their voices, because I don’t have to raise mine for people to hear me. My voice and presence turns heads. The only way people could silence me was by threatening my femininity, because we’re taught that a girl should look like a girl, and sound like a girl, and behave like a girl. We believe this to the extent that my voice, something I can’t and wont ever try to change, became a weird and ‘quirky’ trait- something unnatural and strange for women. My height became my greatest insecurity, I wore flats when high-tops were on trend, and always hunched over because I had somehow been convinced that a boy liking me was all my life was worth. They silenced me because they knew my voice had power, because me having a deep, powerful voice threatened the power in theirs.
“It’s okay to be angry”- Clementine Ford ‘Fight Like A Girl’
I had an incident at school one day where I got into a fight with one of my close friends at the time; we’ll call her Lisa. Lisa and I both screamed at each other from a distance over reasons I can no longer remember, then turned and walked away in opposite directions to cool off- the ordeal lasted maybe two minutes, but we were loud enough to draw attention. I was quickly pulled to the side by a teacher who’d witnessed the whole commotion, and she was quick to tell me that I needed to be careful with the way that I spoke to people. Sure, but we were both arguing with each other, I thought. I asked the teacher why she hadn’t pulled Lisa to the side, only me and she said the following: I looked threatening. The argument looked one sided and she was almost certain I would be the one to make it physical. I questioned her further on why she believed this, and she put it down to my height and my loud voice; I believed her.
When I look back at this event in my life, and I often do, I remember it as the first time I was exposed to the black woman stereotype. Lisa was white. She had a track record of getting into fights at school, she argued with teachers a lot and regularly misbehaved. Yet somehow, It was me who looked threatening against her. Sure I’m loud, I have a distinct voice and I was five foot nine when I was fifteen years old- but I have never considered myself to be threatening, nor have I ever given anyone a reason to believe that I am. Society has brainwashed people into believing that black people are villainous. We’re the perpetrators and the aggressors. We’re rebellious, and we like to fight, and we like to argue. Black men and black women can never be the victim, there’s always something we did or something we said to provoke someone into retaliating, because we’re angry and we’re ferocious. This is a problem, and because of this problem I was taught as a child that I’m not allowed to show my anger or frustration in the same way that white boys or girls can. I must remain composed and classy at all times, as a woman should. I shouldn’t ever challenge people or retaliate because that’s what people expected from me as a black person, and I didn’t want to be a stereotype.
The next time you witness an ‘angry’ feminist fighting for equality, think about what they’ve gone through. Think about the troubles they’ve faced and the snide comments they’ve received that have led them to protest so angrily and passionately.